Small businesses are the backbone of the UK economy. Figures from the Federation of Small Businesses indicate that they account for 99% of private businesses in the UK and that they employ 14.4 million people.
Consumers in the UK are being urged to support small businessses with the UK's first ever Small Business Saturday
The event is being held on Saturday 7th December - traditionally one of the busiest shopping days of the year - in town centres across the UK. Small Business Saturday is an established event in the US. Last year, Small Business Saturday US led to $5.5 (£3.5) billion in sales to small businesses, and led to a increase in long-term trade.
Organisers are hoping that all kinds of small businesses in the UK - whether they be family run, small shop, online or small manufacturer - will get involved. The aim is to get consumers to support small businesses, shop locally and to boost trade.
Research from Groupon and retail analysts Kantar shows that 71% of shoppers would visit their High Streets more often if it contained more independant retailers. With the High Street in decline, the report hints at a possible solution that could reverse this decline. More small, independent traders on the High Street = a more vibrant and thriving High Street.
With this wave of momentum, small businesses should take this opportunity to stand up and shout about what they can offer.
Many people will consider the option of starting a business of their own at some point during their life. Sometimes this is fuelled by a change of personal circumstances, sometimes it is as a result of a 'light bulb' moment where you think to yourself "I can do it better than that" and for others it is to fulfil a life-long ambition.
The UK is a nation of entrepreneurs. There are more than 2.1 million VAT registered businesses and the vast majority of those are small businesses. StartUp Britain suggests that entrepreneurs in Britain will start more than 500,000 new businesses in 2013 alone.
Andrew Devenport, chief executive of Youth Business International (hosts of Global Entrepreneurship Week) says "While more than half of the population would like to start their own business, less than 5% actually do. These entrepreneurial ambitions are even more acute among young people and women. Young people in the UK are three-times more likely to be unemployed than adults, and more than twice as many men start businesses as women.
This week marks the 10th anniversary of Global Entrepreneurship Week, which is dedicated to giving individuals and start-ups practical support to help them get set up and grow. Andrew Devenport says, “Young or old, whether you’re in Barrow or Braintree, or Greenock or Greenwich, Global Entrepreneurship Week can help you take a step forward.”
Here, four entrepreneurs tell us why they decided to set up on their own and share their stories.
Alex Head - Social Pantry Ltd
Alex began her entrepreneurial journey when she started a small sandwich company at the age of 15 and since then it has steadily grown it to the company it is today.
After opening three restaurants for other people she decided it was time to take the plunge and founded Social Pantry Ltd, a café and catering company in Clapham. Social Pantry was created on the back of Alex’s love of food and a challenge. Despite starting up during the recession, she has expanded with an impressive client list including Jo Malone, Red Bull, Innocent Drinks and Laura Ashley.
However, it hasn't always been plain-sailing for Alex - learning quickly how easy it is to get it wrong after the closure of Melito in 2010, a company she had invested in and set up.
One piece of advice Alex would give to people looking to start a food business would be to run a pilot scheme or a trial run. "A good way of starting is to have a pop up as a tester and then you can get direct feedback straight away. Alternatively, if you’re delivering food, start with a small sample of addresses you deliver to, and then expand if successful."
Jacob Hill, age 20 – The Lazy Camper
Jacob is currently studying for a degree in Enterprise Development at the University of Huddersfield, but unlike his peers, he isn’t just learning about starting a business, he’s actually doing it. What started as an idea in a muddy campsite at the Leeds festival has now grown into having its own office and six members of staff. Jacob now supplies camping equipment to thousands of festival goers and campers across the UK through his company, The Lazy Camper.
The company, whose best selling product is the £69.99 all-in-one camping kit in bag, is now a proud sponsor of Virgin Media’s V Festival and offers one of the easiest camping options ever to the hundreds of thousands of people at events such as ‘V Festival’ each year.
However this young entrepreneur nearly didn’t make it through school when his teachers found out he was running a confectionary enterprise from his school lockers. When threatened with suspension at fourteen he worried about his future, but little did he or his teachers realise that by twenty-one he would be a successful businessman winning £270k worth of investment for his start-up enterprise. Jacob wants to inspire other youngsters to combat the lack of employment opportunities by thinking big and starting up their own business.
James and Charlie Gerard - Offertune
Offertune was born over a good steak in an empty restaurant on a Monday evening. Two brothers (James and Charlie) were dining with the owner of a small group of restaurants and discussing why the normally busy restaurant appeared empty in the early week.
They realised that large chain restaurants were able to communicate offers to their guests through organisations like Groupon that have large, ready-made databases.
The seed of Offertune was sewn and the brothers worked for eight months trialling and developing software that provides a free tool for restaurants to collect and grow databases and send out free vouchers to their members.
Through a number of trials, they proved that fans of the restaurants would pay up-front and then spend 150% on the night. Charlie and James are now ready to run their business after a turbulent year of setting up but state that the key to their success is their brotherly bond. Charlie describes their relationship as one of the many strengths of Offertune, having a shared background and a similar frame of mind they are able to bounce ideas off each other with no inhibitions for sharing ideas.
As a result of both their hard work and teamwork, they already have interest from household names such as Charles Wells Pubs, Yo Sushi and Loungers, so it’ll certainly be a busy Christmas for them!
Katie Ainsworth – The Celebration Tent
Katie’s business idea grew while she was looking for something out of the ordinary for her son’s first birthday. She spotted this gap in the market and jumped at the chance to have a business that would fit around family life.
In 2011, Katie undertook voluntary redundancy from the NHS to coincide with her maternity leave. Katie dreamt of having a rewarding job that also let her work from home and have flexible hours to be a full-time mum. She realised the only way this would be possible was to become her own boss and she is now leading the way for stay-at-home parents seeking commercial success.
Katie started up The Celebration Tent, offering a decorated five metre bell tent for hire at private events, in April 2013, and has never looked back. Throughout this year, the company has gone from strength to strength as a result of beaming reviews from all of her clients and she has now expanded from one huge tent to four.
Katie describes her job as much more rewarding and challenging than her previous job at the NHS working with high level researchers. She would advise anyone thinking of changing their career and starting up their own business to take the plunge, as it was the best decision she ever made.
Many business owners dream of one day expanding their SME into a global organisation based in the buzzing business capital of the big cities. While the thriving metropolitan atmosphere may seem like the best place for any business, this isn’t always the case.
Thanks to developments in technology and communications, keeping your business rural has never been easier, and comes with some real benefits. From employee satisfaction to publicising the business, there are limitless positives that come with working in the countryside.
From an operational point of view, it’s certainly much more practical to keep an SME based in a rural location. A small, slightly cheaper office is often enough for an SME that can then hire employees based around the country.
This will allow employees to converse with customers countywide without the cost and effort required to travel in and out of the city on a regular basis. Allowing some employees to telecommute to work will also increase employee satisfaction, resulting in a happier workforce and a higher quality of work.
When once it would have been impossible for a modern business to work within a rural area, the advancement of technology means a fully functioning and practical business can be ran effectively from the middle of a field!
Telecommunication has never been easier, while satellite broadband is an effective and practical means of internet access for those who do not have access to fibre optic broadband.
Working in a major city may offer a somewhat more cosmopolitan atmosphere, but the benefits of the city rarely outweigh the negatives. Due to the sheer size of most cities, it’s next to impossible for smaller businesses to make their name known against the ferocious competition.
Employees often report lower work satisfaction when commuting on a regular basis, and potential customers will often enjoy the personal, SME approach to business that can be taken when working in a rural environment.
Blog supplied by independent satellite broadband internet service provider Europasat.
This week is Global Entrepreneurship Week – a week that aims to grow enterprise ambition and motivate people to meet their new business potential. Entrepreneurs and budding entrepreneurs from across the globe use the week to share ideas, connect with each other and receive valuable support and advice. Sounds great, but what does this mean for the UK’s small businesses? Why should they care about Global Entrepreneurship Week?
The organisation I represent – Youth Business International – runs the week in the UK and 10 other countries across the globe. Our ultimate goal is to help people around the world to start and grow their own business. Global Entrepreneurship Week gives us a platform from which to drive this goal forward, shining a spotlight on enterprise that enables us inspire and encourage new business ventures. But, for me, Global Entrepreneurship Week is more than that. Now in its tenth year, the week has become more of a movement than a PR push.
The campaign will see over 3,000 events across the country involving in excess of 300,000 people. Very few of these events are organised directly by Youth Business International. They’re organised by partners, from schools who want to inspire their young people to Barclays Bank who want to help businesses take their venture to the next stage.
So why should small businesses care? For me, there are three reasons. First of all, the week can be a catalyst for growth. Our theme this year is ‘take a step forward’ and the activity taking place is focused on giving small firms the tools and encouragement to push themselves, even if they make just one change that will open up their potential. Secondly, the week shines a light on the importance of enterprise – it’s a celebration of the UK’s start-ups and a time to be bold in communicating the value they bring to our economy. And finally, through the week, small businesses have unprecedented access to a huge amount of practical advice and resources, from masterclasses in international client marketing to bookkeeping workshops.
Global Entrepreneurship Week genuinely helps entrepreneurs to get the recognition they deserve and the support they need to grow. That’s why I believe it’s a week that all small businesses should take note of.
For more information about Global Entrepreneurship Week, to learn more about the events taking place across the world and how you can be involved, visit www.gew.org.uk or follow the hashtag, #GEWfwd on Twitter.
Andrew Devenport is the Chief Executive of Youth Business International
More than 350 events in the UK involving more than 76,000 people are planned, but there is still time to stage your own event – and there are many good reasons why you should (you can email the organisers for advice).
Business Secretary Vince Cable will launch GEW at an event at Westminster Kingsway College, which will be hosted by organizers Youth Business International and sponsors Barclays, where attendees will include former Pizza Express entrepreneur Luke Johnson, and Gandy’s Flip Flops founders Rob and Paul Forkan.
The theme for this year’s GEW is to encourage would-be entrepreneurs and business owners to “Take a Step Forward” towards starting a business. According to the organisers, highlights of the week include:
This year marks the tenth year of GEW, according to organisers, a week that is “dedicated to giving individuals and start-ups practical support to help them get set up and grow”. Last year, they say, 279,500 people in the UK attended more than 3,200 GEW events organised by more than 500 partner organisations.
“Young or old, whether you’re in Barrow or Braintree, or Greenock or Greenwich, Global Entrepreneurship Week can help you take a step forward,” comments Andrew Devenport, chief executive of Youth Business International (YBL – “a global network of independent non-profit initiatives” with HRH The Prince of Wales as its president). “We had a record year last year, but 2013 is shaping up to be even bigger and better.”
GEW certainly has high-level support. Prime Minister David Cameron says: “Global Entrepreneurship Week is about growing enterprise ambition and ensuring that those with ideas know where to get the support they need to make them a reality. It’s about creating jobs and opportunities.”
YBL says it believes that a large national campaign to promote entrepreneurship is “a vital part of making the UK more entrepreneurial, to encourage more people to start up their own business.
“The challenge we face is simple: while more than half of the population would like to start their own business, less than 5% actually do. These entrepreneurial ambitions are even more acute among young people and women. Young people in the UK are three-times more likely to be unemployed than adults, and more than twice as many men start businesses as women.”
Maybe this year’s GEW can help to address such problems by encouraging many more people to take control of the future by starting their own business.
Billed by its organisers as “Europe's most important business event” and “the UK’s biggest exhibition for anyone starting or expanding a business”, Business Startup (which is being run alongside The Business Show 2013) will take place on 28 and 29 November in London at Olympia.
The good news is, if you live close to London or are able to travel there, free tickets are still available. Over the two days, when more than 25,000 people are expected to attend, there will be 10 workshops, more than 250 free seminars and 350-plus exhibitors gathered.
Speakers at the event include Sir Tom Shebbeare (chairman of Virgin StartUp), Doug Richard (ex-Dragon and founder of School for Startups) and David Gold (joint chairman of West Ham United and chair/owner of Gold Group, which owns Ann Summers and many other successful businesses), among many others.
According to the organisers: “Business experts will cover everything you need to know to get your business started and offer you their invaluable experiences, tips and secrets.”
As well as access to some excellent free information and advice, the event potentially also offers fantastic networking opportunities.
Order your free tickets while you can.